A Great Prophet or More?
Old Testament Reading- Deuteronomy 18:15-20
New Testament Reading- Mark 1:21-28
By Henry J. Rafferty CP -January 29, 2023
When Moses and the Israelites left Egypt during what became known as “The Exodus,” God went before them, in a pillar of fire at night and in a pillar of cloud in the day. God also spoke to Moses and the Israelites at Mt. Sinai from within a dense cloud of smoke that issued forth fire, thunder, and lightning. Later Moses was with God for forty days and his face was radiant after this encounter. Through all this the Israelites feared the Lord and His awesome power.
Exodus 20:18-19 states,
“When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” Our Old Testament reading for today tells us the following from Deuteronomy, Moses says, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.” The Lord said to me: “What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.”
Two things catch my ear in that reading that might cause questions. One, who is this prophet and how do I know them when I encounter them? The second, if there is only one God, who are these other gods?
A true prophet, according to what we just read today is someone chosen by God from among the Israelites that will speak the words God puts in their mouths. They are not to hold back any of God’s Words or replace them with any of their own or any other, so called, deity’s words. Deuteronomy 18:21-22 tells us,
“And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.”
So, as you can see, if it truly comes from God, all that was told will come to pass. Matthew 7:16-20 tells us also,
"You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, you will recognize them by their fruits.”
To the second question about other gods, it is usually a case of mistaken identity or lies. First, people can set themselves up as gods. The Pharaohs in Egypt and the Roman Emperors were believed by their people to be human and divine, so what they said was not questioned and they had such power that they could control a whole nation of people in right ways and in wrong. Secondly, there were imagined gods, gods that were no more than pieces of wood or gold, that people would prescribe all manner of ideals and commands
usually based on a group, or one person that would invent and use the false god to enforce their own agenda. Although it is a fictional story, ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is an example, through trickery and illusion a mere man was able to fake his way into making people believe he was something he was not.
Lastly, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 6:10-13 tells us,
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
We are not the only creations of God that have gone astray, there were angels that fell, and the Bible warns us about listening to them over Him. The Old Testament books of Kings, Psalms, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah all speak of nations that worshiped gods named Baal and Moloch. These cults were responsible for many acts of immorality and the sacrificial burning of children. Is it any wonder God did not want the Israelites to have anything to do with them when they came into the Promised Land? He did not want their evil practices to have an influence on the fledgling nation, nor did God want them to intermarry with these people as they would corrupt the Israelites and future generations by what they would teach their children.
Many Prophets were sent by God over the ages to guide His people. Isaiah, Samuel, Ezekiel, Malachi, and Zechariah to name a few. They were instrumental in trying, with mixed results, to keep the Israelites on the path of righteousness. All the while God would keep trying to help His people, and being a rebellious lot, they would fall away. Ultimately God would have to send His Son, Jesus, God in the flesh, to right the wrong. Many, at that time, took Him as another Prophet.
Our New Testament lesson today states,
“They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.”
This was no mere Rabbi, or Prophet for that matter, and some recognized it. While exorcisms weren’t uncommon, the way Jesus did it was different. He used such authority to command the evil spirits to leave and He was recognized by the spirits as the Messiah.
Many great prophets were raised up by God for Israel over the centuries, since the time of Moses, but this Jesus was different. He fit all the definitions that we talked about before, yet He was special. Even the evil spirits, the enemies of God, recognize Jesus as the Holy One of God and are afraid. They cannot begin to contend with Him and the power of God. As for Satan himself and all his power, he is still not nearly a match for God, even with all the power that Satan was given at his creation, he is still merely a creation, not the Creator. Now, how do these lessons today give us hope? Have you ever looked for answers to help live your life? People tell us to look in the Bible for answers, but how do we know it’s true?
"Even the evil spirits, the enemies of God, recognize Jesus as the Holy One of God and are afraid. They cannot begin to contend with Him and the power of God." ~ Pastor Rafferty
We have read today that God would raise up a Prophet that would guide us and tell us all that God commands of us. We have been told how to recognize Him. We have encountered Jesus who is recognized by people as a prophet, but more than that, one that even the evil enemy acknowledges. Jesus has fulfilled over 351 Old Testament Prophecies, that I know of, that fit the Messiah. I found this statement on the mathematical probability that Jesus is the Messiah by a professor at Westmont College in California and it quotes, “After examining only eight different prophecies, they conservatively estimated that the chance of one man fulfilling all eight prophecies was one in 10^17."
To illustrate how large the number 10^17 is, a figure with 17 zeros, the professor gave this illustration: "If you mark one of ten tickets, and place all the tickets in a hat, and thoroughly stir them, and then ask a blindfolded man to draw one, his chance of getting the right ticket is one in ten. Suppose that we take 10^17 silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They’ll cover the whole state to a depth of two feet. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state. Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up the one silver dollar that has the special mark on it. What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance that the prophets would’ve had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man, from their day to the present time.”
From these figures, the professor concludes, "the fulfillment of these eight prophecies alone proves that God inspired the writing of the prophecies – the likelihood of mere chance is only one in 10^17. Another way of saying this is that any person who minimizes or ignores the significance of the biblical identifying signs concerning the Messiah would be foolish.
“But, of course, there are many more than eight prophecies. In another calculation, the professor used 48 prophecies and arrived at the extremely conservative estimate that the probability of 48 prophecies being fulfilled in one person is the incredible number 10^157. How large is that? 10^157 contains 157 zeros!” “As the professor concludes, “Any man who rejects Christ as the Son of God is rejecting a fact, proved perhaps more absolutely than any other fact in the world.”
Let us not forget either that Jesus was not only believed to be the Messiah by other people; He claimed to be the Christ Himself. C.S. Lewis wrote in ‘Mere Christianity,’ “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon, or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
The Gospel of Luke 4:14-21 records the following account of Jesus claiming Himself as the Messiah,
“Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
As Lewis said, He just doesn’t leave it up for debate, Jesus did claim to be just what He said He was, the Messiah, the Christ, the One and Only Son of God. Do you believe it? If Jesus asked you, like He asked Peter, who do you say I am? What would you say? A great guy? Or the Great I AM!
Do you still have questions? Seek no farther for the answers that will change your life and the lives of all you meet. Look no further than Jesus Christ, He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, with Him you cannot fail, but apart from Him you can do nothing. Thanks be to God for sending us His Holy One and for giving us the gift of recognizing Him for what He really is. Amen.